The Union Reader

The Union Reader

The Union Reader

The Union Reader

Excerpt

As the national memory of the American Civil War is dimmed with time the vision of the war is, more and more, portrayed in great bold strokes. We remember Sumter, Bull Run, and Gettysburg--that greatest of battles. We remember a farmhouse at Appomattox, tensed to silence and formality in marking the end of an era of noisy politics and noisier battle. We remember Lincoln and the giant shadow his figure has cast on American history. We remember Grant and Sherman, and Seward and Stanton. And John Wilkes Booth. We remember the Confederates: the nobility of Lee, the zeal of Jackson, the daring of Stuart.

But so much we forget.

The war was more than Lincoln and his generals and his Cabinet, more than battles and heroes. For more than four years war was our national life. War was the climactic event of a generation--of a century--of American life. It was, as its great leader said at the cemetery in Gettysburg, the test of the United States' national existence.

The story of the war has been told many times. Its vast literature still grows by, conservatively, a book a week. With the reports from the two contending sides in the same language and with the motivations of the two sections still influencing sectional thinking, this is a war which has a con-

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